Texas Tech football: Making the case for Tyler Shough as starting QB

Sep 4, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough (12) attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough (12) attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The most pressing offseason question facing this year’s Texas Tech football program concerns the starting quarterback job.  And by all accounts, the battle for that coveted job is a two-man race between Tyler Shough and Donovan Smith.  So today, let’s look at the case for giving the job to Shough, who is still the most experienced QB on the roster.

Most Red Raider fans don’t know about Shough’s pedigree because his high school recruitment took place in Eugene, Oregon not in Lubbock.  But in the class of 2019, Shough was ranked the No. 140 player in the nation and the No. 1 pro-style QB according to 247Sports.  He had offers from the likes of Alabama, North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, and several other major-conference programs.

That makes him the highest-ranked high-school QB to suit up for the Red Raiders since recruiting rankings have been calculated. Thus, for the entirety of his career, Shough has dealt with massive expectations.  Now, he’s a senior and this could finally be the year that he puts it all together and realizes his massive potential.

There’s no question that Shough is the most seasoned of the options that head coach Joey McGuire and offensive coordinator Zach Kittley have to pick from.  What’s more, he’s helped carry a Power 5 team to a conference title.

Remember that in 2020, Shough was the starting QB for Oregon and that fall he started all seven games the Ducks would play on their way to winning the PAC 12 title.  That year, he passed for 1,559 yards and 13 TDs with six picks while splitting time with Anthony Brown.

When you combine that year with Shough’s injury-shortened debut season as a Red Raider in 2021, it gives the senior 11 career starts, which is almost a season’s worth of games at the Power-5 level.  That experience has to be a plus for McGuire and Kittley especially because coaches tend to covet experience at the QB position where Shough has seven games more of experience than any other QB on the roster.

Remember, Kittley wants his QB to have full control of the offense, including giving him the freedom to audible at any moment.  Thus, having a QB that has been through a season’s worth of games and who has been in the college game for going on four years has to be appealing to the new Red Raider offensive coordinator.

Another factor that could give Shough an edge in this QB competition is his pedigree as a passer.  That will be a huge consideration given that Kittley loves to push the ball down the field.

Overall, Shough is a career 66.4% passer.  That includes a mark of 69.6% last season in three-plus games.

On the other hand, Smith has a career completion percentage of just 61.2%.  That’s quite the disparity when it comes to the accuracy of the two passers, and accuracy will be key in Kittley’s scheme.

There is no question that Kittley likes to stress defenses by stretching the field.  In fact, last season, his QB at Western Kentucky, Bailey Zappe, averaged 8.7 yards passing per attempt.  To put that in perspective, know that  Pat Mahomes never averaged more than 8.5 yards per attempt in his college career, which, coincidentally, is what Smith averaged last season.

Now, 0.2 yards per attempt isn’t an astronomical difference but what is a sizeable span is the difference between Smith and Shough in yards per attempt in 2021.  A season ago, both started four games for Tech and Shough averaged a yard more per attempt.  Over the course of a hundred or so passes, that signals a sizeable difference in how well each QB pushes the ball downfield.

What’s more, for his career Shough is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.  That’s a huge number and even 1.4 yards more per attempt than even Red Raider great B.J. Symons averaged in the 2003 season which saw him set the NCAA record for passing yards in a season.

Ultimately, Shough would appear to be the QB on the roster with the lowest floor.  We’ve seen him play consistent football over parts of two seasons and the coaches likely feel comfortable in knowing what they are going to get from the veteran.  Don’t underestimate how much weight that carries in QB battles.

Even if Shough is just average by his standards, he’s likely to be good enough to win games at the Power-5 level.  What’s more, if he plays at his best, he could be the best QB in the Big 12 and a 2023 NFL Draft pick.

Right now, Shough has to be considered the favorite to win this job.  He’s got more experience and is a better passer than any QB on the roster and those two bullet points are certain to carry quite a bit of weight with the coaching staff as they search for their next starter.